Monday, September 30, 2013

Preztels of Love/Shame

First off, a hearty congratulations to my co-blogger, Erica, and her husband, TJ, on a fantastic wedding - the weekend was such a treat, and I know these two have a long and happy partnership ahead of them.

I know you must be thinking -- didn't Erica just post about a delicious cake? What is that a picture of? Are those pretzels?? And, um, beer?

As I think most of you are well aware, at this point, I am the delinquent blogger. If a post is late, or doesn't have photos, it's probably my fault. This summer has been particularly rough, and I've been sitting on a JULY post until now. and now that I actually went to write it, lo and behold, I have no photos. Good think I have mad skills in paint.  (Jen, where are you when I need you?)

The July challenge was pretty nifty -- we were allowed to pick any prior challenge and give it another go. Erica and I reached far back into the archives, to before we were daring bakers, and selected a early, easy, and delicious challenge -- preztels (I know you're sad we didn't pick suet pie). They became the center of a carb and cheese-centric meal shared with our partners (pretzels, beer, and pizza), particularly once we added a delicious cheese sauce to the mix. Making pretzels is actually quite easy (what, you want a recipe? I tried to find it, I promise, but that disappeared along with the photos, oh look at that -- see below). You throw together a quick dough, roll out into logs and form, coat with a baking soda topping, and pop in the oven. Done!

Fingers crossed for a delicious (fall themed?) October recipe! 


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel, as illustrated. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Moveable Pastel de Tres Leches

As we've done in the past, Sara and I decided to make September's challenge for our book club. We didn't have a nice camera so the pictures do not do it justice, but it was a big hit.

The cake did indeed contain tres leches, although one of the "leches" was really some delicious crema.

We beat the egg yolks.

And folded them into egg whites, along with some flour. The cake really did have a lovely light texture.

We were supposed to let the cake sit in the milk mixture overnight but we couldn't wait. We poured it in -- as seen in the picture above -- and then stuck it in the fridge for a little while. I'm sure it tastes even better when fully absorbed and cold, but it was pretty darn good as it was.

Sara got a little overzealous in whipping the cream for a topping and ended up making some sweet butter, which she saved in a jar for later consumption. Fortunately we had more cream, as well as some fresh strawberries and raspberries.

Yummy. What a cake.

We were reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Although our book club is not normally thematic, our friend, Emily, cooked a French-ish meal of soup, salad and quiche. We had some French wine. Our pastel de tres leches didn't exactly fit in, but there is a weak connection -- it's popular in Spanish-speaking Central and South America, and Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in Spain around the same time period that he covers in A Moveable Feast ... where they also speak Spanish ... ... ...

But really, who cares, it was delicious, and Sara and I were happy to be baking again after a bit of a hectic hiatus -- during which I got married! The Baking JDs are back in action.

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

RECIPE: Classic Three Milks Cake

  • Whipping cream -- The topping whipping cream must be very cold.
  • Sponge Cake:
    • You should not over fold the mixture it will lose volume from the bubbles breaking.
    • Avoid knocking the cake tin when containing batter
    • Add the flour slowly like rain showers.
Preparation time: 1 hour and a half

Equipment required:
• A scale for measuring all ingredients
• Some bowls
• Stand mixer
• Strainer to sift the flour
• Egg Whisk
• Square Cake pan 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan
• Saucepan
• Pastry brush
• Pastry Spatula

Servings: 12

For the vanilla sponge cake
5 large eggs (separated)
½ cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (125 gm) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) of vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) (5 oz) (140gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (sifted)

For three milks syrup
1 can (14 oz) (400 gm) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz) (340 gm) evaporated milk
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (about 35% fat) or 1 cup of half & half or 1 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rum (or other flavoring)

Topping and filling
2 cups (500 ml) of whipping cream (about 30% fat)
½ cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (125 gm) sugar
Canned or fresh fruit (to fill and decorate the cake)

For the Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Prepare a square 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan
Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
Beat the egg whites on medium speed, 3 - 5 minutes.
When soft peaks form slowly add the sugar in small batches.
Whip until stiff peaks form about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium bowl beat egg yolks at medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the egg yolks become pale colored, creamy and puffy. Stir in vanilla.
Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites, gently fold until just combined trying not to lose any volume from the mixture.
Fold in the flour little by little in the form of rain. Mix until just combined (over-beating will result in a denser, flatter cake).

Pour the batter into the prepared 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) square cake pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan.
Bake in the preheated moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean

Let it cool
Once cool, split the cake in half, flip the top of the cake and place it on a base. Poke using a fork holes all over the cake to better absorb the three milk soaking liquid. [We cut slices in the cake to maximize absorption; we didn't cut it in half.]

Three milks syrup
In a saucepan add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Remove it and let it cool.

Once it is cool, add the rum or any other flavoring you are using.
Gradually brush all the milk soaking liquid into all sides of the cake (including the cut surfaces) until all absorbed. Best to rest the cake in the fridge overnight to complete the soaking process. [We pretty much pour the whole shebang over it (gradually) and then set it in the fridge for ~15 minutes.]

Whip the cream, when soft peaks form add the sugar little by little, continue whipping until stiff peaks form about 2 mins.

Layer some whipped cream on the bottom layer and cover with canned or fresh fruit and decorate the top layer with whipped cream and the fresh or canned fruit. [We just put the whipped cream on top with the berries.]